Staying HIP

April 2, 2009 by  

By Doug Leier

HIP information has provided wildlife managers more accurate data to better manage species such as doves

HIP information has provided wildlife managers more accurate data to better manage species such as doves

For almost a decade, migratory bird hunters have had to get HIP. No, not the “hip,” that loosely means “aware” or “fashionable” according the Webster’s Dictionary, but HIP, as in registered with the Harvest Information Program.

What is HIP?

HIP is a survey method developed by states and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) as a means to collect more reliable estimates of migratory bird harvests throughout the country. The program provides agencies the information necessary to manage hunting seasons.

It got its start in the early 1990s when the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies worked with the USFWS to develop a program to collect data from all migratory bird hunters, which includes those who hunt ducks, geese, swans, sandhill cranes, doves and others.

The requirement for HIP registration began in 1998. As with any new survey HIP was initially the target of unsubstantiated paranoia: “They’ll use it take our guns . The list will go to the anti-hunters,” bird hunters bemoaned. Others thought the program would become a new way of charging a fee for the mandatory certification. After a decade of existence, none of these problems have occurred.

“In the past we used names and addresses of duck stamp buyers as the sample frame for questionnaires to measure waterfowl harvest,: says Mike Johnson, North Dakota Game and Fish Department game management section leader. “This is no longer possible because of the way duck stamps are distributed. In addition, we had no way to get harvest survey questionnaires into the hands of other migratory game bird hunters, such as dove, snipe or woodcock hunters. Thus, we had no harvest information for most non-waterfowl species.”

Better data

For the HIP survey, state game and fish agencies register all migratory bird hunters to get their names and addresses. The name/address database is then sent to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The USFWS randomly selects a sample of hunters from the list and asks them to provide information on the kind and number of migratory birds they harvest during the hunting season. Those reports are then used to produce harvest estimates of all migratory birds throughout the country. Responding to the mail questionnaire surveys is voluntary, however most hunters interested in helping to conserved our migratory bird resources and perpetuate our hunting heritage are willing and eager to provide information on their hunting activity and success.

HIP information has provided wildlife managers more accurate data to better manage species such as doves

HIP information has provided wildlife managers more accurate data to better manage species such as doves

The information gathered from hunters is kept confidential, and once the HIP survey is complete, the USFWS destroys all names and address records.

Johnson says that many hunters mistakenly think that the simple questions they answer when they register for HIP are the harvest survey. “This is not the case,” he emphasized. “The HIP registration questions provide the statistical foundation for sampling the hunter data base. Survey accuracy and efficiency is greatly improved if we know who is most likely to be a dove or duck hunter, for example, and their relative activity and success.”

The actual HIP survey is mailed to a small sample of migratory game bird hunters.

How to get HIP

Hunters need to get HIP before hunting ducks, geese, swans, mergansers, coots, cranes, snipe, mourning doves or woodcock. Those who purchase a license through the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s website (, or instant licensing telephone number (800-406-6409) are automatically HIP certified. Otherwise, hunters must call 888-634-4798, answer a few simple questions, and record the HIP number on their fishing, hunting and furbearer certificate.HIP registration is like any other hunting or fishing license requirement, Johnson says, except it’s free.

“Hunters play a very important role in the management and conservation of migratory game birds,” Johnson stated. “One of their easiest and most important responsibilities is to provide timely and accurate responses to harvest survey questionnaires.

“The Harvest Information Program,” Johns added, “is the most significant improvement in harvest survey methodology in the past 60 years.”


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